Sunday, July 13, 2008

Vietnamese Exploration Trip in San Francisco

I love Vietnamese food. I love the smell, I love the taste, I love all the fresh herbs and clean taste that you get, especially in a hot summer afternoon. Needless to say, after moving to the Bay Area, finding a good Vietnamese food is on the top of my list. So far, I've only found a couple that I would be willing to go back again, and I will put those in this post and also compare the taste of each restaurant.

Le Regal (2.75 on my Yummy Scale)
After many trials of different Vietnamese food in Oakland from reading Yelp (again, thanks for nothing, Yelpers!) I've had heart-breaking experiences and had given up the hope of finding a good Vietnamese restaurant in the East Bay. However, I did find one, close by in Berkeley. Le Regal in Berkeley looks OK from the outside, but I already know that a real Asian restaurant usually looks pretty bad, so in that sense, this place looks excellent. I tried the noodle salad (Bun) with barbequed pork and imperial roll, and the thin slice beef noodle soup. The barbequed pork was a bit greasy, and the imperial roll was tiny and, with the taro as one of the ingredients in it, was slightly removed of the typical crunchiness from the roll. The noodle soup was pretty good, but tasted a bit one dimensional. I think they prepared the soup only with one type of bone (I think it's beef bone) and some vegetables, so it's ok but not really good. Since this place doesn't really relieve my Vietnamese food craving, I had to move on and find another one.

Golden Star (4.0 on my Yummy Scale)
Then I went into the city and tried a Vietnamese restaurant close to ChinaTown called Golden Star. This was a pleasant surprise because the noodle salad was very fresh, and the barbequed pork was good. The imperial roll was also pretty good, as it has a good balance of meat and vegetables in there (without Taro, very important), and with a nice crunchiness to it as well. The noodle soup was excellent because it's made with several types of bones and vegetables, and together with the thin slice beef and rice noodle, it was a match made in Vietnamese food heaven! The beef ball in the noodle soup was springy/chewy, just the way I like it. Overall the place was an excellent find, and I was happy with this discovery.

Tu Lan (2.75 on my Yummy Scale)
This weekend I went and tried a place called Tu Lan on 6th St. in San Francisco after receiving excellent reviews from one of my friends, who told me that I just 'had' to try the place. I went there based on his suggestion, and it turned out to be just OK. First, the imperial roll is the jumbo-size type, but the filling has too much meat in there, so the whole thing tasted a little bit mushed together. The crunchiness of the roll is still there, but it just tasted a little bit one-dimensional. The noodle salad was good and had lots of fresh mint and vegetables, and the pork on there was excellent. The noodle soup, however, was a big bummer because it tasted like a regular vegetable broth, maybe with some beef bone added in there for a bit flavor, but that's about it. And the beef ball, soft and mushy, not so good. Overall, it's only OK, and I was expecting a lot better than just OK. The place is also a bit shady in a shady area, so I would probably go back there only if I'm already close to the area. It's not good enough for me to make a trip just for the food.

Overall, the Vietnamese restaurant that I've tried so far is OK, nothing mind blowing. With that, it is leaving me a little disappointed, and so I am still needing to search for the best one that will cure my craving of good Vietnamese food without driving or flying back to LA. I am hopeful of finding something good, so right now I'm still searching for that one true love.

Le Regal: 2126 Center Street, Berkeley, CA 94704

Golden Star: 11 Walter U Lum Place, San Francisco, CA 94108

Tu Lan: 8 6th Street, San Francisco, CA 94103
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